CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose could feel the tension inside the United Center every time he touched the ball during Team USA's 95-78 exhibition win over Brazil on Saturday night.
The former MVP understands why.
Saturday marked Rose's first game appearance in his home arena since tearing the medial meniscus in his right knee on Nov. 22.
I've been preparing for this for a long time. Probably, if this was a couple weeks ago I wouldn't have been emotional, but right now it feels great. We won the game so that's the only thing I could be happy about -- we won. We didn't lose. If we had lost my whole attitude would have been different. Just take this win, go to New York [Sunday] and just try to keep this going.” -- Derrick Rose
"When I was out there they wanted me to shoot every ball," Rose said with a laugh.
Rose scored seven points in 24 minutes in his Chicago return, but the fact that he was out there at all after playing just 10 games in the past two years because of two serious knee injuries is what made fans so happy. Rose was the last player introduced before the game as fans roared and chanted "MVP!"
"I'm playing the way I normally play in the trials," Rose said. "Push the ball, play defense and get guys shots. When the shot is available, take the shot, and I think that's what I did tonight. I had one or two turnovers, but that could easily be changed."
Rose didn't need to lead the offensive barrage for Team USA on this night; fellow Chicago native Anthony Davis took care of that. Davis, who was playing in his hometown for the first time as a professional, led Team USA with 20 points and set the tone on both ends of the floor.
"It felt great," Davis said. "The first time I played on this floor since high school. It's great to be back here in front of my home crowd, friends and family coming out and supporting me. Most importantly, we got the win."
The New Orleans Pelicans All-Star center had the crowd buzzing throughout the night, making several highlight-reel dunks. His dive into the stands for a loose ball in the fourth quarter prompted fans to chant "USA! USA!" He will be a focal point for Team USA considering the lack of big men depth on coach Mike Krzyzewski's roster.
Aside from the win, the good news for Krzyzewski in this game was that nobody was seriously injured after Paul George's gruesome broken leg in Team USA's scrimmage in Las Vegas two weeks ago. Rose was cut on his face in the first half but came back into the game late in the second quarter and made a nice running floater to end the half. With George out and Kevin Durant leaving the team last week, Rose will be counted on to provide an offensive punch for this team alongside Stephen Curry and James Harden (18 points).
"I'm pleased with our team," Krzyzewski said. "We've had a lot of interruptions. The one thing that hasn't been interrupted has been effort. Our guys have played hard in every practice. They're a really good group. To play an organized team and an outstanding team like Brazil like this tonight was really encouraging for us."
Now Krzyzewski and his staff must continue to figure out how to cut Team USA's roster to 12 before the World Cup of Basketball begins later this month in Spain.
Sacramento Kings small forward Rudy Gay, who was added to the team last week after Durant left, was the first substitute off Team USA's bench Saturday night. Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried got the start alongside Davis while Brooklyn Nets forward Mason Plumlee got the bulk of the minutes off the bench for a depleted frontcourt. Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins didn't play after injuring his right knee in Thursday's practice, while Detroit Pistons big man Andre Drummond, Utah Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward and Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan never entered the game.
As Krzyzewski continues to tinker with his roster, he took great pride in the fact that Rose was able to perform in front of a packed house at the United Center. Rose, along with Brazil center Anderson Varejao, gave brief speeches to the crowd before the game, thanking fans for coming to the game. Rose received another big ovation before speaking, and then thanked USA Basketball for bringing the game to Chicago as the city continues to deal with a major violence problem.
The former MVP excited the home fans late in the third quarter when he split two defenders and laid the ball in. It was a vintage Rose move that Bulls fans are expecting to see again this NBA season.
"It's great to watch Derrick play again," Bulls coach and Team USA assistant Tom Thibodeau said. "I couldn't be more pleased with the way he played."
Rose and the rest of Team USA head to New York on Sunday to continue training for the World Cup. Krzyzewski said earlier this week that his team likely wouldn't make any more cuts until after the New York portion of camp was finished.
For Rose, it was just another step on a long journey.
"I've been preparing for this for a long time," Rose said. "Probably, if this was a couple weeks ago I wouldn't have been emotional, but right now it feels great. We won the game so that's the only thing I could be happy about -- we won. We didn't lose. If we had lost my whole attitude would have been different. Just take this win, go to New York [Sunday] and just try to keep this going."